Last night I returned from a visit to the annual Drüggelter Kunst-Stückchen festival in Westfalen, Germany. This art festival has been taking place annually for 27 years already, always in the weekend of pentecost. Everything happens around an old estate, and its old converted stable and little chapel are used for concerts. The Backhaus (baking house) offers food and drinks, and works of art are exhibited both inside and outside.
The Royal Wind Music from Amsterdam (a wonderful recorder consort) was going to give two concerts there in the main hall (the converted stable), and my trio, ÆroDynamic, was going to perform concert in the more intimate chapel. We all went there together in two vans on Saturday and stayed in a hotel in nearby Möhnesee.
We arrived around half past two and were warmly welcomed: lunch was waiting for us! A proper German warm lunch, with baked potatoes, grilled vegetables, fish, meat, and a little strawberry dessert. We were quite hungry, so that was a great welcome! We all got separate rooms, quite the luxury. There even was a bathtub! And… a view of the Möhnesee!
The area around the Möhnesee is very beautiful. It is part of the Soester Börde, a very fertile area, with hills, lakes, and lots of green. It is in the Sauerland, a popular holiday area for many Dutch people. I decided to enjoy the surroundings while the Royal Wind Music had their rehearsal for that evening’s concert. I took a walk around the village and along the lake.
I returned to the hotel for dinner with my colleagues, which, again, was a feast: they had prepared local asparagus for us, with good potatoes, sauce, and meat. I hardly ever eat asparagus, so that was a treat! After dinner I practiced a bit for the concert the next day, and then I decided to take a bath. It must have been the first time in years! After about 10 or 15 minutes I had to get out because I was hardly able to activate myself anymore. I went straight to bed, just lying there, relaxed, reading a bit, and then dozing off to sleep.
On Sunday morning I got up early, because we had a concert at 11am. The others were quite tired, because they went for drinks after the concert last night and it had been quite late when they went to bed. But the Germans know how to make breakfast, so after some fresh bread, fruit, veggies, eggs, müsli, and coffee we were all set to go. We traveled to Drüggelte and went to the chapel.
This little chapel was (probably) built in the 12th century, but historians suspect that there was a sacred site there long before that already. It’s a Roman style chapel, 12-sided, with four big pillars in the middle that carry a higher dome. We were going to play standing in the middle of the church, with the audience seated around us.
The pillars have all kinds of symbols on them. I don’t know if they are just ornamentation or if they also have a deeper meaning.
The atmosphere in this chapel is amazing. This place truly feels ancient. And I love the fact that it is used today, in a respectful, but not museum-like way. Here in The Netherlands we have the tendency to treat our old buildings in two different ways: either we modernize them, losing the connection to the past, or we make them into monuments, effectively freezing them in the past and taking their life away. In this chapel, and by extension in this whole estate, you get a sense of the fact that people have been living here, working here, using and enjoying the area and the buildings, generation after generation, with little change, and that we just follow in their footsteps. I was quite moved by that feeling.
The concert was well-visited. There were about 70 people there. More than 30 people had opted for the entire arrangement: having breakfast together and then visiting the concert. They were waiting outside while we finished our rehearsal, and unfortunately it started to rain. We quickly went to change into our performance clothes and the audience gratefully went into the chapel, away from the rain. The weather stayed cold and wet the whole day.
We played a program of English renaissance music: music by Byrd, Fairfax, Power, Dunstable, and even Henry VIII. The setting was intimate with the audience seated around us, and the acoustics of the chapel were brilliant. At the end of the concert we wanted to play an encore, and we asked the people which song they would like to hear again. They chose the very last song we played, Sub tuam protectionem by Dunstable, and that was the first time ever that I sang the same piece twice in a row in a concert. But it was fitting – that music really suited the chapel. We thoroughly enjoyed playing there, and we got many positive comments from the audience.
Time for lunch! Next to the chapel was the Backhaus, a tavern-like building, where we could get some nice food.
I tried Reibekuchen, which seem to be deep fried grated potatoe pancakes, with salmon. And asparagus soup. The soup was great, the Reibekuchen is not my thing – too fatty. But we did need some fuel, because the Royal Wind Music was going to play in the stable again that afternoon, and it was very, very cold in there. I was going to help with the slides that were projected during the concert. We rehearsed for a bit, then took a much needed break in a warmer place. Everybody was so cold. It even seemed colder inside the stable than outside!
It really was a shame that the weather was so bad, because part of the festival took place outside. There was a group of bagpipe players from Scotland who performed a couple of times during the day, outside. There was art outside, and the children did a workshop outside, making catapults and whistles from branches.
The concert of the Royal Wind Music started at 4pm, and it was a concert especially for the children. They could bring their recorder, and play along with some of the pieces. They did great! The concert was a big success, everybody was very involved, and it was good fun.
After the concert we packed all the instruments away and prepared to go home. Then the festival organizers offered that we could have dinner there at their expense, which was very nice of them. It was around 6.30pm already, and we still had more than 3 hours to drive. So we went back to the Backhaus and had some dinner, and then a nice strawberry with vanilla cottage cheese dessert… I really love the German food, I must say!
We were stuffed, happy, and warm when we left around 8pm. We drove back down to The Netherlands – probably a bit faster because of the extra pounds we put on because of all the good food – westward towards the sunset.